Dopey Challenge 2023 has been on my goal list since I completed the challenge in 2020, and I have been looking forward to the event. Unfortunately, I have been struggling with the decision as of late (which I won’t go into now), but on Thursday night, runDisney released the 2023 marathon weekend themes, and WOW! They nailed it!
How exciting is this 90s theme to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the WDW Marathon! This is the Disney I remember from my childhood, and I was a big Disney kid. Dopey is completing all four races: 5K, 10K, half marathon, and half marathon during runDisney Marathon weekend. It’s difficult, but there is such energy that it makes it so much fun!
On top of it being an anniversary year for the marathon, it is the 10 year anniversary of the Dopey Challenge. My very first marathon was the 25th anniversary of the Disney Marathon. It’s hard to believe that was almost 5 years ago, but I remember how exciting it was. They gave us Mickey ears after the race to celebrate, and it was just so cool! I’m sure they will do something really cool this time, too!
I’m sure the weekend is going to be so much fun, and I decided that I am in for the challenge. There are several goals I want to complete to get ready for this, but Dopey 2023 is my motivation. Registration is on April 19, and I will be ready!
Training starts on September 5, so I have Pelotonia before then. It will be a great way to start 2023. Lots to accomplish before then, but it is just the motivation I need to make them happen!
Dopey 2020 is the ultimate challenge of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This year, it was on January 9 – 12, and it was fantastic! I’m writing this a month and a half later, so I’ve had a chance to reflect and reminisce over the weekend. I’m going to share other details later, but I wanted to give the highlights of the weekend because it was just SO. MUCH. FUN!! Spoiler alert – I would do it again!
Wednesday, January 8
My friend Ursula and I traveled to Orlando on Wednesday, January 8. This year, we stayed at Pop Century again because of the location, price, and the new Skyliner. We had to go to the expo, which in the past has been so much fun. We learned that Wednesday expo is not the same as Friday or Saturday – it was awful. The expo was overwhelming and entirely too crowded. I bought a Dopey finisher shirt as a gift for Ursula to have if she did a good job (she did the same for me because – come on! You can’t actually buy it unless you finish!) We had a low-key day and hung around the hotel and Disney Springs – we had a long few days ahead!
Thursday, January 9
The first race morning (start time 5:30 am, wake up: 3:30 am) is a 5K around Epcot. The course is fantastic because you run around Epcot the whole time. This is the only race they don’t time; you just have to complete it. It was surprising how many families were there with their children. That must have been fun for them. They had 3 or 4 character stops and one of them was the Beast. I should have stopped, but I get so nervous by the long lines. If I was faster, then I would do it. Goals for the future!
I finished and got my first medal – Pluto! We were 3.1 miles down out of 48.6. I made a decision that I was going to get a picture with Dopey and my medal after each day, and I’m so happy that I did!
After the race, we went back to the hotel and showered. We spent the rest of the day at Animal Kingdom. Our stops:
Festival of the Lion King (awesome!)
Finding Nemo the Musical
Na’vi River Journey
(Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a pass to the Avatar journey, which I think is the coolest ride ever!)
Pictures with a whole lot of characters!
Friday, January 10
Day 2 and we were ready for the 10K. It was another early morning, but we met up with more college friends. Like the 5K, the corrals starts were towards the front, and we wore the 5K bibs. The course was very similar to the 5K but added in more highway running. While on the highway, the two Frozen princesses were on the overpass looking down where it was snowing! On the course, they even had Abu, the Monkey from Aladdin. It was really neat.
When we finished, we got an Oswald medal, which I promptly took to Dopey for another victory shot.
After showering, I headed to Hollywood Studios. I got to meet even more characters and saw:
Beauty and the Beast show
The Little Mermaid show
Played Toy Story Mania!
Toured the Disney Museum (saw in Oswald poster)
Went to Star Wars World
This won’t be a popular statement, and I have no credibility because I am not a Star Wars fan, but I hated that place. It was overwhelming and awful. We made a reservation for “lunch” months before at the “Cantina” but apparently, it’s just a bar. I was hungry! I won’t plan to go back there…
We spent the rest of the night at the hotel where our group hung out at the pool and a simple dinner at the hotel…we needed an early night.
Saturday, January 11
Another 5:30 am race start, which means that we had to wake up at 3:00 am. Luckily, the early mornings hadn’t bothered me yet. I think I was just too excited about the races.
The half marathon was a long one. My friends all did a great job! I didn’t because I walked; I was having back problems, so I didn’t want to hurt myself before marathon day. That being said, it was my worse time ever. On the bright side, I stopped for a picture with Lilo and Lightning McQueen & Mater. There were so many characters, but the half course is my least favorite. Epcot and MK were a blast to run through, but there is just so much highway. There’s no way to change that, but it was just blah.
At the end, we were awarded the Donald Duck medal! It is one of the best looking medals I have. We didn’t get to show it off in the parks since we needed to rest our feet. Instead, we walked around the boardwalk and hung out at the pool for the rest of the day. Two days down and 46% of the miles through; we needed a good night’s sleep.
Sunday, January 12
Marathon day was finally upon us! Disney moved the start time up to 5 am, but it was ridiculous because they didn’t end up starting until 5:30 am because of traffic. I think I woke around 2:30 am. That morning was the hardest to get going because I was tired and also nervous for the marathon.
This was a new marathon course from when I did the marathon in 2018. I liked the course a lot this year because we started running through Epcot which got us to MK around mile 10 instead of mile 6. It was nice to finish MK and be to the halfway point. The hardest part was after MK (around mile 13 to AK around mile 17). It was so long, just highway, and there was very little entertainment along the way. I thought they would have more characters there or the signs with jokes like they had in ESPN. But at least ESPN was GONE!
It was incredibly hot that day – around 85 degrees with 90% humidity. It was awful, and I was going slowly. I walked the beginning and ran through the parks. RunDisney decided to cut out Blizzard Beach at a certain point to reduce the course by 2 miles for people at the end. I was really lucky and got in before they cut it off, so I got to complete all 26.2 miles. Right before there was mile 19. I was done with the race and just wanted to finish. At that point, I blasted my workout mix and had a dance party until the finish line.
Because of the redirection, I actually caught up with Ursula, so I got to see her around mile 21 or so. I stuck with her and her new friends for a while, but then I just needed to finish. Dan Mott and his girlfriend met me at mile 25.7 with a margarita, so I had to go fast! I got it, and it was worth it!
Then I waited for Ursula to catch up so we could cross the finish line with each other. We did it and were relieved. 48.6% were complete, and we proved it by getting three new medals – marathon, Goofy Challenge, and the Dopey Challenge!
Our tradition is to celebrate a race at Epcot where everyone wears their medals and drinks around the world. We had dinner at the Bier Garten in Epcot since it was a good location for a group. We also got to walk around and do some rides and see characters. It was a nice night, but I was exhausted!
Monday, January 13
Most of our friends had left by this point, but today was our day to hang out in the Magic Kingdom and meet lots of characters. We started the day with breakfast at Be Our Guest with Belle and Beast. The food isn’t great, but it’s such a cool setting. Then I can’t even start on all of the characters we saw! We got a ton of pictures with my Dopey medal and rode some of the rides.
We ended the journey with the “Happily Ever After” fireworks show, and it just makes me so happy! This journey was definitely a “Dopey” fairy tale come true!